Barbecue, Bar-b-que or BBQ? Finally, a definitive answer.

Capital F for French toast but not for french fries; it’s sloppy Joe but bloody mary; wheat germ—two words; wheatgrass—one. Who decides this stuff?!

I’ll tell you who: the Associated Press. It’s the world’s largest news organization, operating in 121 countries, and what it says goes. If it’s being written for public consumption, the AP Stylebook is the final word in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage. For more than 50 years, it’s told us when numbers should be spelled out (one through nine unless it’s an age or percentage), whether it’s United States or U.S. (abbreviate when it’s an adjective), and that white (lowercase) is preferable to Caucasian (capitalized). And this year, the AP Stylebook features its first-ever Food Guidelines section.

It’s a big deal. Really.
The stylebook is the gold standard for journalistic publication. It means that food writing is recognized, legitimized, and welcomed into the ranks of established AP journalistic specialties like business and sports. It also standardizes and codifies food writing; we are told that equipment and techniques should always precede ingredients in the text of a recipe (in a nonstick pan over medium heat crack 2 eggs…), and now we know when to say the garlic is minced and when we should call it chopped.

If that wasn’t enough of a big deal already, we are also told unequivocally that Parmesan is a style and Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cheese; Crock-Pots (uppercase, hyphenated) are always slow cookers (little s, no hyphen), but slow cookers are not all Crock-Pots; and Broccolini™ is a brand name. And the barbecue entry offers this:  The verb refers to the cooking of foods (usually meat) over flame or hot coals. As a noun, can be both the meat cooked in this manner or the fire pit (grill). Not barbeque or Bar-BQ.
That settles it.

What a boon for foodbloggers (yes, one word) everywhere.

The 2011 Edition of the AP Stylebook is available in book form and as a mobile app.

On June 13 at 2:30 p.m. ET, AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch will host a live chat to solicit feedback and answer questions about the new edition. You can join the chat at


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4 Responses to Barbecue, Bar-b-que or BBQ? Finally, a definitive answer.

  1. Janice says:

    AP definitely knows less about food than writing, and even less about barbecue.

  2. Craig says:

    That definition is completely incorrect. To simply grill something, as this definition implies, does not make it barbecue. In order for any food to be considered as barbecue, it has to be cooked low and slow with smoke. Sauce does not make barbecue either. For if the barbecue is done correctly, no sauce will ever be needed.

  3. Janice says:

    I am personally a fan of the Chicago manual as well- gotta have my serial commas! But I find that most of my journalistic endeavors require that I adhere to AP in matters of usage.

  4. Interesting post. However, as a published author, I don’t use AP. I use the Chicago Manual of Style. That is the standard for the book publishing industry.

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